With 265 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds planted with more than 15,000 species from around the world, the Arnold Arboretum is an oasis in the heart of Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Established in 1872, it is managed under a partnership between Harvard University, which maintains the collections and conducts research and public education, and the city of Boston. The Arboretum is worth a visit in any season, but is especially picturesque in spring when the colorful blooms of the various trees, shrubs, and flowers are at peak.
The Arboretum’s visitor center is located in the Hunnewell Building at the Arborway (Route 203) entrance. Here services include maps, a model of the grounds, and gift shop. Several miles of paved roads (closed to public vehicles) and footpaths allow easy exploration of the grounds. There are numerous options for walkers, ranging from easy strolls to long circuit hikes of 4 miles or longer. Meadow Road continues south from the center and passes a variety of trees and shrubs en route to three ponds and the Bradley Rosaceous Collection, where one may view roses, cherries, crabapples, and other plantings.
The lower slopes of nearby Bussey Hill are home to one of the Arboretum’s most popular collections, a lilac garden with more than 200 species. A festival is held annually during the first weekend in May when the blooms are at or near peak. An easy climb on Bussey Hill Road leads to the partially open 200-foot summit, where there are views to the Blue Hills. Colorful rhododendrons may be viewed along Hemlock Hill Road near the base of the hill. In addition to their scenic qualities, the collections offer habitat for wildlife such as songbirds, bluebirds, butterflies, and small mammals including cottontail rabbits and squirrels.
Scenic Peters Hill marks the Arboretum’s southern boundary. The 240-foot summit, which is the property’s highest point, offers panoramic views across groves of colorful crabapple and cherry trees to the buildings of downtown Boston. If the distance from the visitor center is too far to walk, you can park on Bussey Street and enter at the Peters Hill or Poplar gates. For more information, including directions, events, and descriptions of the collections, visit the Arboretum’s website www.arboretum.harvard.edu.
~ John Burk
John Burk is the author of several books and guides related to New England, which may be viewed on his Amazon page. A detailed description of an Arnold Arboretum hike, as well as 59 other trips in eastern Massachusetts, is available in the Appalachian Mountain Club Best Day Hikes near Boston guide, which John recently coauthored with Michael Tougias.